"City life was gettin' us down
So we spent the weekend out of town
Pitched the tent on the patch of ground
Down by the river"
As a Parks Field Supervisor for the City of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Department, one aspect of my job, the most heart wrenching part, was to discover and clear homeless encampments along the banks of the San Lorenzo River which runs down the middle of town.
Santa Cruz is a favorite place for lots of different types of people. People down on their luck come here because the community does its best to help them. I spent 10 years on the Board of Directors of Families in Transition, an organization formed to assist families trying to get back on their feet. Another reason is that the weather here is really nice all year round. Camping is very easy to do but there is a price to pay. It's illegal to sleep outdoors in Santa Cruz on property that does not belong to you or that you do not have permission to do so.
Unfortunately all kinds of problems come with these circumstances and managing it appears in rather draconian ways. That's where my job came in. I had to mark and post signs in these campsites to inform the occupants that their belongings, such as they were, would be confiscated and sent to the municipal landfill if they weren't picked up and the campsite abandoned within 48 hours of the posting although that may have changed by now.
It would really break my heart to see how some of the folks lived. Some out of choice but it was hard to tell them from the ones suffering. I'd mark the spots, leave the posting and arrange for the clean-up. It was kind of a game in a way. I'd rustle someone out of one spot and a couple of days later they'd be in another illegal spot. Ever play that game called "Whack a Mole"?
Those days are over now. The riverbank has been cleared of brush and police patrols have been stepped up so encampments aren't as common. However, the vast majority of the crime is committed on or near the river. So much complaint and so little action. I have said several times that "I don't want to hear about the labor pains. Just show me the baby."
Taken with a Canon 10D